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The Privacy Case for Body Cameras: The Need for a Privacy-Centric Approach to Body Camera Policymaking

Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems, Vol. 50, 2017

Posted: 29 Apr 2016 Last revised: 11 May 2017

Ethan Thomas

Columbia University, Law School, Students

Date Written: 01 30, 2017

Abstract

Body-mounted cameras are being used by law enforcement with increasing frequency throughout the United States, with calls from government leaders and advocacy groups to further increase their integration with routine police practices. As the technology becomes more common in availability and use, however, concerns grow as to how more-frequent and more-personal video recording affects privacy interests, as well as how policies can both protect privacy and fulfill the promise of increased official oversight.

This Note advocates for a privacy-centric approach to body camera policymaking, positing that such a framework will best serve the public’s multifaceted privacy interests without compromising the ability of body cameras to monitor law-enforcement misconduct. Part I surveys the existing technology and commonplace views of privacy and accountability. Part II examines the unique privacy risks imposed by the technology as well as the countervailing potential for privacy enhancement, demonstrating the value of an approach oriented around privacy interests. Part III assesses how the failure to adopt this approach has resulted in storage policies for body camera footage that inhibit the technology’s ability to best serve the public and suggests that a privacy-centric perspective can lead to better policymaking. Finally, Part IV examines the flaws of prevailing views with respect to policies for accessing footage and discusses how a revised privacy-centric perspective could lead to better policies.

AVAILABLE AT http://jlsp.law.columbia.edu/volume-50/

Keywords: body cameras, privacy, access, disclosure, retention, footage, policy

Suggested Citation

Thomas, Ethan, The Privacy Case for Body Cameras: The Need for a Privacy-Centric Approach to Body Camera Policymaking (01 30, 2017). Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems, Vol. 50, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2768280

Ethan Thomas (Contact Author)

Columbia University, Law School, Students ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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